Aerosols are small dust particles in the air, such as soot, ash and desert dust. They have a major influence on air pollution and climate change, but their precise role is insufficiently known. That is why scenarios for global warming up to the year 2100 vary approximately 3 degrees Celsius. Most aerosols have a cooling effect by reflecting and absorbing sunlight (aerosol-radiation interactions) and by changing the properties of clouds (aerosol-cloud interactions). But one type of aerosol–soot–contributes to global warming by boosting the warming effects of greenhouse gases. At SRON we work on space instrumentation, retrieval algorithms and data exploitation to better understand and quantify the effects of aerosols on climate and air quality.
SPEXone is a compact five-angle spectropolarimeter instrument developed as a contributed payload for the NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) observatory. Launch is scheduled for early 2024. SPEXone will enable detailed characterization of aerosols, such as their absorption power, composition, size and height. It uses spectral modulation to provide measurements of radiance and state of polarization in a continuous wavelength spectrum, leading to a high polarimetric accuracy.
SPEX airborne is a prototype of SPEXone, a spectropolarimeter that is part of the payload for NASA’s PACE mission and a candidate to be part of ESA’s CO2M mission. SPEX airborne has flown onboard high altitude research aircrafts. In the near future SPEX airborne will be deployed in the validation campaign for PACE.
Landscape fires, whether natural or human-made, release pollutants, greenhouse gases and aerosols, affecting not only climate but also human health.
Satellite observations of dry-column methane mixing ratios (XCH4) from shortwave infrared (SWIR) solar backscatter radiation provide a powerful resource to quantify methane emissions in service of climate action. The TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI), launched in October 2017, provides global daily coverage at a 5.5 × 7 km2 (nadir) pixel resolution, but its methane retrievals can suffer from biases associated with SWIR surface albedo, scattering from aerosols and cirrus clouds, and across-track variability (striping). The Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT) instrument, launched in 2009, has better spectral characteristics and its methane retrieval is much less subject to biases, but its data density is 250 times sparser than TROPOMI. Here, we present a blended TROPOMI+GOSAT methane product obtained by training a machine learning (ML) model to predict the difference between TROPOMI and GOSAT co-located measurements, using only predictor variables included in the TROPOMI retrieval, and then applying the correction to the complete TROPOMI record from April 2018 to present. We find that the largest corrections are associated with coarse aerosol particles, high SWIR surface albedo, and across-track pixel index. Our blended product corrects a systematic difference between TROPOMI and GOSAT over water, and it features corrections exceeding 10 ppb over arid land, persistently cloudy regions, and high northern latitudes. It reduces the TROPOMI spatially variable bias over land (referenced to GOSAT data) from 14.3 to 10.4 ppb at a 0.25° × 0.3125° resolution. Validation with Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) ground-based column measurements shows reductions in variable bias compared with the original TROPOMI data from 4.7 to 4.4 ppb and in single-retrieval precision from 14.5 to 11.9 ppb. TCCON data are all in locations with a SWIR surface albedo below 0.4 (where TROPOMI biases tend to be relatively low), but they confirm the dependence of TROPOMI biases on SWIR surface albedo and coarse aerosol particles, as well as the reduction of these biases in the blended product. Fine-scale inspection of the Arabian Peninsula shows that a number of hotspots in the original TROPOMI data are removed as artifacts in the blended product. The blended product also corrects striping and aerosol/cloud biases in single-orbit TROPOMI data, enabling better detection and quantification of ultra-emitters. Residual coastal biases can be removed by applying additional filters. The ML method presented here can be applied more generally to validate and correct data from any new satellite instrument by reference to a more established instrument.
We apply a local ensemble transform Kalman smoother (LETKS) in combination with the global aerosol-climate model ECHAM-HAM to estimate aerosol emissions from POLDER-3/PARASOL (POLarization and Directionality of the Earth’s Reflectances) observations for the year 2006. We assimilate aerosol optical depth at 550 mnm (AOD550), the Ångström exponent at 550 and 865 nm (AE550-865), and single-scattering albedo at 550 nm (SSA550) in order to improve modeled aerosol mass, size and absorption simultaneously. The new global aerosol emissions increase to 1419 Tg yr−1 (+28 %) for dust, 1850 Tg yr−1 (+75 %) for sea salt, 215 Tg yr−1 (+143 %) for organic aerosol and 13.3 Tg yr−1 (+75 %) for black carbon, while the sulfur dioxide emissions increase to 198 Tg yr−1 (+42 %) and the total deposition of sulfates to 293 Tg yr−1 (+39 %). Organic and black carbon emissions are much higher than their prior values from bottom-up inventories, with a stronger increase in biomass burning sources (+193 % and +90 %) than in anthropogenic sources (115 % and 70 %). The evaluation of the experiments with POLDER (assimilated) and AERONET as well as MODIS Dark Target (independent) observations shows a clear improvement compared with the ECHAM-HAM control run. Specifically based on AERONET, the global mean error in AOD550 improves from −0.094 to −0.006, while absorption aerosol optical depth at 550 nm (AAOD550) improves from −0.009 to −0.004 after the assimilation. A smaller improvement is also observed in the AE550-865 mean absolute error (from 0.428 to 0.393), with a considerably higher improvement over isolated island sites at the ocean. The new dust emissions are closer to the ensemble median of AEROCOM I, AEROCOM III and CMIP5 as well as some of the previous assimilation studies. The new sea salt emissions have become closer to the reported emissions from previous studies. Indications of a missing fraction of coarse dust and sea salt particles are discussed. The biomass burning changes (based on POLDER) can be used as alternative biomass burning scaling factors for the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) inventory distinctively estimated for organic carbon (2.93) and black carbon (1.90) instead of the recommended scaling of 3.4 (Kaiser et al., 2012). The estimated emissions are highly sensitive to the relative humidity due to aerosol water uptake, especially in the case of sulfates. We found that ECHAM-HAM, like most of the global climate models (GCMs) that participated in AEROCOM and CMIP6, overestimated the relative humidity compared with ERA5 and as a result the water uptake by aerosols, assuming the kappa values are not underestimated. If we use the ERA5 relative humidity, sulfate emissions must be further increased, as modeled sulfate AOD is lowered. Specifically, over East Asia, the lower AOD can be attributed to the underestimated precipitation and the lack of simulated nitrates in the model.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an air pollutant that plays an important role in atmospheric chemistry and is mostly emitted by forest fires and incomplete combustion in, for example, road transport, residential heating, and industry. As CO is co-emitted with fossil fuel CO2 combustion emissions, it can be used as a proxy for CO2. Following the Paris Agreement, there is a need for independent verification of reported activity-based bottom-up CO2 emissions through atmospheric measurements. CO can be observed daily at a global scale with the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) satellite instrument with daily global coverage at a resolution down to 5.5 × 7 km2. To take advantage of this unique TROPOMI dataset, we develop a cross-sectional flux-based emission quantification method that can be applied to quantify emissions from a large number of cities, without relying on computationally expensive inversions. We focus on Africa as a region with quickly growing cities and large uncertainties in current emission estimates. We use a full year of high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) simulations over three cities to evaluate and optimize the performance of our cross-sectional flux emission quantification method and show its reliability down to emission rates of 0.1 Tg CO yr-1. Comparison of the TROPOMI-based emission estimates to the Dynamics-Aerosol-Chemistry-Cloud Interactions in West Africa (DACCIWA) and Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) bottom-up inventories shows that CO emission rates in northern Africa are underestimated in EDGAR, suggesting overestimated combustion efficiencies. We see the opposite when comparing TROPOMI to the DACCIWA inventory in South Africa and Côte d’Ivoire, where CO emission factors appear to be overestimated. Over Lagos and Kano (Nigeria) we find that potential errors in the spatial disaggregation of national emissions cause errors in DACCIWA and EDGAR respectively. Finally, we show that our computationally efficient quantification method combined with the daily TROPOMI observations can identify a weekend effect in the road-transport-dominated CO emissions from Cairo and Algiers.
We collaborate with climate researchers and modelers, and together contribute to the development of physical instruments and the promotion of scientific activities outside SRON.
Responsible for ¼ of human-made greenhouse effect
About 30 times more powerful than CO₂ (GWP-100)
Large emissions from fossil fuel industry, landfills, livestock
Most important human-made greenhouse gas
Hard to monitor emissions because of long lifetime
Reactions with atmospheric gases contribute to global warming
Trace gas to calculate CO₂ emissions from forest fires
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